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Glass Houses

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"Psychologists should bethink themselves before
putting down the instinct of self-preservation as
the cardinal instinct of an organic being. A living
thing seeks above all to discharge its strength --
life itself is Will to Power; self-preservation is only
one of the indirect and most frequent results thereof."
      -- Beyond Good and Evil by Friedrich Nietzsche

"I have devils in my mind,
They refuse to set me free...."
      -- "Afterhours" by Covenant

Aya stared down at his sister with his right hand just over her mouth, not touching. This close, he couldn't delude himself at all. No breath, and she was too still and cold. Her skin looked wrong, thick, heavy. If he touched it, there would be no give to it, he could tell. This was death, not coma.

He'd failed her utterly. Defeat snatched from the jaws of victory. Worse, he'd gotten Sakura and Manx killed as well. No matter that he hadn't been there to protect them. He should have been. He could have protected them as they fled the citadel, but instead he'd stayed to fight Schwarz, as if trading philosophies and blows mattered more than her life.

He couldn't breathe. He didn't deserve to breathe. He had nothing left. He was already dead inside and empty. The two weeks of waiting to find out her fate had led to the only place it could lead.

As his hands clenched and unclenched, he felt the knife taped to his left forearm bite into his flexing flesh, sharp and stinging and raw. He deserved that and more. She should be the one still standing. The pressure of the knife hilt against his wrist provided a small comfort and a reminder of what must come.

Failure of this magnitude had its price, and he would pay it gladly. Not now, not with Omi standing beside him and Ken and Yoji standing behind him, but later. Later the knife would taste more than his arm. Or perhaps he could find a way to run himself through with his katana. That would be appropriate.

Right now, with nothing left, he could only wait to die.


Omi watched Aya nervously and listened to him breathe, a heart-rending sound that was somewhere between sobbing and hyperventilating. But Aya did not cry. Perhaps would not. Did he even know what he sounded like? Probably not. He'd finally looked up from his sister but now stared wide-eyed at nothing, or at some horror only he could see.

Omi glanced back at Ken and Yoji, who both looked as apprehensive as he felt. He looked back at Aya and noticed motion. No, Aya didn't move except for his clenching and unclenching hands. Something dripped slowly from his left fist. Blood. He was bleeding. Damn, was Aya scoring his palm with his nails? No, couldn't be, not with that much blood coming off....

Aya had an edged weapon up the sleeve of his leather jacket, probably a knife. It had to be. But how? They'd checked him for weapons!

Omi glanced back again and flicked his gaze at Aya's left hand to direct their attention. They nodded and moved up close to Aya's back.

"It's time to go," Omi said softly, moving in close by Aya's right side.

"Yeah," Aya answered, more painful breath than voice. Then something in him came to attention and suspicion, and he started to move with fast, deadly intent....

They grabbed him. He let out a harsh, surprised cry as Yoji grabbed his left wrist but kept fighting like a demon, struggling, jerking, head-butting. The three of them could barely hold him. Ken punched him hard across the face, and he finally sagged, mercifully knocked out.

The Kritiker employees ran in as the three of them put him on the floor and stripped his jacket away. "Shit," Yoji said as they saw the cruel slices Aya's hidden kitchen knife had left on his arm. A kitchen knife fastened to bare flesh with black electrical tape. He probably hadn't meant it to rip into his skin as he wore it, but he'd hardly been thinking clearly since the phone call to identify his sister's body had come. They'd had to lead him to the car and then out again to get here.

Omi could easily imagine Aya's intentions: him slitting his wrists open over her corpse. As if that could happen in the heart of Kritiker's morgue. As if his teammates hadn't known him too well to dare leave him alone at any point, especially not near his sister's body.

As Omi sliced the tape away and removed the knife, Ken asked, "What do we do with him now? If he doesn't want to live, what the hell do we do?"

Kritiker medics were already examining the sliced forearm. Lost, Omi said, "I don't know."


Omi sat in the chair and stared at the bed. Sedated, Aya didn't move, hadn't moved for hours. Omi's gaze skidded away from the padded four-point restraints. He'd argued against those, but Birman had been firm and persuasive. Aya was dangerous enough sane, or at least as close to sane as he came. Maddened, suicidal, with nothing left to lose, he'd have one thing in mind and the berserker strength to do it. Lost in grief, he could hurt himself and others.

Even unconscious, he looked like he was suffering. His face.... Omi couldn't look at his face or the bandages around his forearm.

Aya's sister had been his whole reason for living. What could they offer him to take her place? If Omi could figure that out, he could save him.

Omi heard something and turned--

"Take you down,
I want to take you down,
I want to take you down with me...."
      -- "Tour de Force" by Covenant

~ It's like it's my birthday, ~ Schuldig said almost reverently in Farfarello's head as they looked at the figure strapped to the bed, Farfarello in person and Schuldig through his eye. He hated the feel of the telepath lounging in his head, but he had orders.

He would get a gift today, so he could afford to be generous.

"We should kill him," Farfarello said as he looked at the unconscious boy in the chair. Bombay. More dangerous than he looked.

~ Brad says no. Future stuff. 'Sides, just imagine how upset little Omi will be when he comes to and Abyssinian's gone, right from under his nose. ~

"Hmm." Farfarello approached the bed and stared down at his gift. His pet-to-be. Aya Fujimiya smelled of blood, pain, madness, sedatives, disinfectant, and leather. Farfarello understood restraints very well and longed to take them off, but that would come after he had a talk with their recruit.

~ Let me do the talking. ~

Farfarello was no one's puppet. If he wouldn't let God command him, he certainly wouldn't let Schuldig. Besides... "No. I understand him better than you do." He smirked as the telepath bristled at the possibility of anyone knowing people better than he did. "I will let you advise."

~ You have no fucking choice on that. ~

"Exactly." His puisín's hair had fanned out a bit against the pale pillow. Red, his favorite color. "My hair had been red in another life."

~ I can't wait to see how Abyssinian handles your ownership. ~

The kitten stirred a little and mumbled, "Hurts."

"Life does," Farfarello answered.

Aya's eyes jerked open, and he bucked against his restraints. To his credit, he fought hard enough that he came close to dislocating his limbs. Still, he couldn't be allowed to damage himself further.

Farfarello put his palm on Aya's forehead and pressed down hard. "Stop. You'll only hurt yourself. If I wanted to kill you, I would have already."

"What do you want?" Abyssinian growled.

"I'm here to save you." As the kitten sneered, Farfarello continued, "I know that you want to die, but even if you succeed you will never see your sister again, not as a murderer and suicide. You'll go straight to Hell."

Unable to entirely hide his misery, Aya's eyes closed. Grief and sedation had left him more vulnerable. ~ Delicious. ~

"God wants that. He killed her, and He's calling you to Hell right now, but I will fight Him for you."


"Because I hate Him and want to deprive him of anything He wants. And because Crawford said that your presence with us will ensure the destruction of Eszett."

Aya's eyes lit up a little with a hectic gleam. "Eszett? You work for Eszett."

"We worked for them to undermine them from within. We hated them. We struck off the beast's head, but the body remains to do mindless damage. They must suspect that we've turned on them, so we have to eliminate them." Farfarello paused. "You know that they shot your sister and her would-be protectors."

"You want me to join Schwarz?" The kitten sounded incredulous and nearly hysterical.

"You're already a killer for hire."

Some of his righteousness fled, but then blazed up again. "We kill people who do evil. You kill anyone you're paid to, and torture them as well."

"Do you research everyone Kritiker points you at to be certain?"

Abyssinian took in a sharp breath but said nothing.

Farfarello smiled. "And I've seen you. You don't really care about people, and you enjoy inflicting a bit of torment yourself."


"Yes. You said that as long as there is good in the world you would fight to protect it by being Weiß, but there is no good in the world now that she is gone, is there?"

That reminder obviously chipped away at him further, but he remained deliciously defiant. "Schwarz wanted to use her!"

"It's a moot point now that she's gone."

~ He agrees, even if he doesn't want to. He's thinking that all of the good he's tried to do has only made things worse, that Manx and that girl Sakura died trying to do good and didn't even succeed in doing that good, and that even the man who told him that he should care for more than just his sister was killed senselessly while trying to save him. Oooh, Botan died horrifically, and right in front of Aya's eyes. Aya... liked him. That's interesting. ~

"We never bore Weiß any ill will," Farfarello continued. "Why would we? You meant very little to us. You were only business. Now you, Aya, have a meaning to us, and we have a meaning to you." He leaned in closer as if sharing a confidence, for dramatic effect. "You see, your teammates know you for what you are now. An attempted suicide, a maddened animal. They'll never see you the same way again. You'll never have another moment alone as they watch you to be sure you don't try to kill yourself again. When they look at you, they'll have such compassion and pity in their eyes."

Aya flinched and shuddered. Schuldig, ever the mindbreaker, purred and exuded something approaching lust. ~ Fuck yes, Farfie. Bring it on home. ~

"Who do you think put the restraints on you?" Farfarello asked.

Schuldig moaned, making Farfarello wonder at the emotions that must be roiling through his puisín, since Aya looked nauseous and a little depressed but otherwise untouched. Generously, Schuldig gave Farfarello a taste of what was inside. Such pain and despair. It would make angels weep... if angels cared at all.

"You want me to help you destroy Eszett. Your leader says that my presence amongst you will help you succeed. What's left for me after that? Nothing."

~ Oooh, there's a dangerous bit of self-awareness. ~

"What's left for you now without us? Weiß and Kritiker will never trust you again. They may even keep you tied up for your own protection. We will treasure and use you well." Farfarello took off his wristguards and displayed his scarred forearms in a way that the tied-up kitten could see. "Besides, I understand better than you think. Better than they ever would. You have nothing left with them."

Abyssinian couldn't see Bombay from his trussed position on the bed, couldn't know that someone had stayed with him. He probably guessed that they kept the room under surveillance but wouldn't see that as care for him. "They have my katana."

"In a few minutes' work, so could we."

"There would be no turning back for me."

"True. The risk is all yours. But what do you care? You want to die, and you're already damned. Your reputation amongst your friends is already tattered and stained. They see you as a broken thing to be pitied and may never trust you with an edged weapon again. You have nothing left to lose. What will you do?"

Aya's face remained still but Farfarello sensed his struggle. Finally Aya said, softly, "I will go with you." He would have gone no matter what he'd answered, but having him do it voluntarily made things neater.

"There's something I must do to make our escape smoother." Farfarello quickly knocked him out cold with the hilt of his knife, while Schuldig cackled. No need to give the kitten any last minute temptations.

~ Nagi's in Abyssinian's quarters getting his katana and clothing. ~

As Farfarello unfastened the padded cuffs, he said, "No clothing. You'll have to buy him new ones."

~ What the hell are you-- ~

"Fresh start. Almost nothing to bind him to what he used to be. You're a telepath, you have to know his taste and sizes. Make sure they're things he'd actually wear, not just things you want to see him in."

~ I am not Fujimiya Aya's personal shopper! ~

"Crawford said I--"

~ I know what-- Fine, but I'm never letting you forget this. ~

Farfarello draped his pet over his shoulder so his hands would be free. His puisín was too thin and would need better feeding. "I figured as much."


"What do you mean Schwarz took Aya?" Ken asked.

Birman looked annoyed and angry. "Just what we said. I don't know how he got in, but Farfarello taunted him, then knocked him out and carried him away. We have him on camera. The men who'd been watching the feed are both dead from puncture wounds in their necks. Omi was knocked out. Excuse me." She flipped her cell phone open. "What? You must be-- Yes. Thank you." She flipped it closed. "Your building was broken into. Only one thing is missing."

"Aya's katana?" Omi asked, with one hand cradling his head. Another head injury, right on top of what their last fight with Schwarz had gotten him. They'd taken him so easily....

"Yes. Nothing else was moved. They knew exactly where to find it."

"Aya didn't help them," Omi snapped, not liking the expression on her face. "They have a telepath, remember? We've seen him make people do things they wouldn't do on their own."

"And Farfarello knocked Aya out and carried him away," Yoji said. "Besides, I don't think he faked the suicidal tendencies."

"We'll find him," Birman said.


Schuldig telepathically piloted a drugged and sleepwalking Fujimiya Aya through the airport, a common trick they used for getting people out with them. Nobody appreciated how much effort he put in.... Farfarello kept their new recruit physically steady. At least Aya didn't look drunk walking around, as some of the sleepwalkers did, and the blackout sunglasses hid how his eyes didn't focus the way wakeful people's did.

Nobody thought Aya seemed suspicious or stopped Schwarz from boarding, which left Schuldig with several hours of boredom. Feeling an entire plane full of bored people left him short-tempered, and he ended up feeding the terrors of the ones who were afraid of flying just for some variety. He couldn't even complain to Brad, since Brad would just say that the boredom would make sure he had no distractions as he planted a new language or two in their new recruit's head.

That did alleviate the lethal tedium somewhat, with Aya being such a twisted up mess. Such angst, such pain, such violence.

It was a relief to have Farfie's seatmate already sorted out, since Nagi couldn't always deal with sitting near him and demanded a different row sometimes. That time Farfarello had been put next to a nun had been a little too exciting and forced Schuldig to rewrite the memories of an entire planeload of people.

Looking possessive and protective, Farfarello sat across the aisle from them with his unconscious pet's head on his shoulder and stroked that distinctively red hair. Even with the slight bruising on his face, Aya looked cute and snuggly while stoned, out cold, and drooling a bit. He better appreciate the fucking clothes.

Schuldig couldn't wait to see his reaction when a new language flowed out of his mouth.

Brad asked quietly, "Can Farfarello even feel that?" On a physical level, Farfarello didn't feel much pain, but he didn't feel much pleasure either.

"Somewhat. Not like we could. Either way, the repetitive motion soothes him."

"I wonder how long it will take for him to get bored."

"I dunno. You're the seer. He's already calling Abyssinian 'kitten' in Irish. It suggests a greater level of commitment."

"The last one didn't last long."

Farfie didn't do as much extracurricular acting out when he was focused on a pet that needed his care. Great idea, but he'd gotten bored too quickly with the others.

"The last one wasn't a psychotic, suicidal swordsman who needed to be saved from himself. And we're keeping Aya with us under different terms than the last ones."

Brad was amused. "You sound like you want it to work."

"I sound like somebody desperate for entertainment, and Abyssinian's always been good for that. Besides, I'm curious to see if a guy who's had his only purpose in life ripped away can survive once it's gone."